Evatt looks forward

President's report

The highlight of the year under review has been the success of our website. Our aim has been to give information and to refer readers to sources of knowledge that social and political activists need to participate in informed public debates. The contributions of Dr Christopher Sheil and Mark McGrath have been outstanding in managing the site and creating the diversity of issues that our website has covered. I know from the reaction I have received that we are now achieving an interstate coverage that will lead to Australia-wide dialogue in the future. As part of this process we have built co-operative relationships with the Public Sector Research Centre, Pluto Press, the Labor Council of NSW, Workers Online, Social Change Media, NSW Alliance, Dissent magazine, NCOSS and various web sites.

The website

The Evatt Foundation's website is now firmly established. The Evatt site began operating in mid-November 2001, and began to approach full operation in January 2002, when the first issue of the online Evatt Journal was published and distributed to the site's subscribers. We have now published 10 editions of the Journal, including a double edition covering the months of August-September.

The site has featured the Foundation's own publications and a mixture of original and republished articles from Australia and around the world. Through the site we have also published letters in response to our articles, advertised events of interest to our members and readers, sold copies of our publications, and promoted membership of the Foundation.

As a general strategy, we have aimed to publish the widest possible variety of material from a broad left-of-centre perspective, with the criteria for selection based on the quality and relevance of the work. As a consequence, the site now features an outstanding array of contributions from a large variety of nationally and internationally distinguished thinkers, authors and public figures, in addition to contributions from active citizens.

We have published five special features as part of the Evatt Journal: "On the waterfront" (looking at the 1998 dispute four years on), The state of the states 2002, the "Life & art of Mary Alice Evatt", "PPPs: propaganda, privatisation & partnerships", and "Who's afraid of public debt". Other topics such as globalisation, the threatened war with Iraq, the corporate crisis of American capitalism, the campaigns for paid-maternity leave and against privatisation, what's happening in the suburbs, refugees, managerialism and specific developments in political economy, current events, history, art, politics and philosophy are also all well represented on the site.

Authors, academics and activists such as Peter Singer, Edward Said, Stuart Macintyre, Elizabeth Evatt, Carmen Lawrence, Kevin Rudd, Phillip Knightley, Paul Krugman, Anne Summers, Fred Argy, Jim SpigelmanPaul Keating, John Ralston Saul, George Monbiot, Susan Ryan, Lionel Orchard, Michael Kirby, Julian Burnside, John Quiggin and Will Hutton are just some of the well known figures who have contributed their work to the site.

The statistics that are automatically collected by the site program are all very impressive. Since commencement last November, the site has had well over 600,000 hits. The most appropriate base line for measuring the progress, however, is from last January, when we published our first online newsletter. In the subsequent eight months to October 2002, the traffic through the site increased by almost 500 per cent,increasing by an extraordinary 25 per cent a month. In October, the site received 92,000 hits, or around 3000 hits a day. In terms of the number of pages viewed, which are said to be the best web measure, we are now hovering around 20,000 per month, or over 600 pages a day. On our best day, which was in October, almost 3000 pages (2981 to be exact) on the Evatt site were opened, representing over 7000 hits.

The website therefore clearly amounts to a major publishing effort by the Foundation. Beginning from nothing, we now have 1100 subscribers to the online Evatt Journal, and new subscribers continue to sign up every week as the site's reputation grows and word gets around. Since we commenced, we have also received many orders for publications and membership applications through the site. It is worth noting that many of the orders, and even the membership applications, come not only from the many disparate parts of Australia, but also from overseas. Indeed, the dramatic way in which the site has extended the Foundation's reach is illustrated by the fact that we attract readers from over 60 countries each month, with up to half of the traffic in any given month coming from other countries. In particular, the Foundation now has a steady following in the United States, which accounts for around 20 per cent of our readers. An accolade to the website came from the Australian National Library, which has asked permission to archive our site because it is "of great public interest".

Breakfast seminars

When I was a Senator in the Australian Parliament I saw how "competition policy" was introduced. It was a stealthy conspiracy between political leaders, business interests and the senior bureaucrats, federal and state. The federal and state caucuses were bypassed with a resultant lack of political examination or democratic debate. Accordingly it is pleasing now to be involved in an examination of issues and democratic debate through the Evatt Breakfast Seminars.

We kicked off the year with our first seminar "What is happening in the suburbs? - the speakers being Mark Latham, MP and Dr Brendan Gleeson from the University of Western Sydney. Next came "The Americanisation of Europe", addressed by Professor Roy Green, Professor of Management and Director of the Centre for Innovation and Structural Change at the National University of Ireland, and a former member of the Evatt Executive Committee.

By far the most important of the current issues since competition policy is the issue of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). We held a successful breakfast on August 26th under the heading "The Next Great Privatisation Debate", with Maree O'Halloran, the President of the Teachers Federation, and Dr Christopher Sheil, from the School of History at UNSW, chaired by David Carey, the Federal Secretary of the State Public Sector Federation. With Labor governments in all states and territories, this is a most important discussion for the Australian labour movement to engage in if we are not to have the 'unintended consequences' of the British experience.

Arising from the seminar, the Civil Services Association (CSA), a part of the State Public Services Federation Group within the the Community and Public Services Union (CPSU), commissioned a report from the Evatt Foundation, which Dr Sheil prepared as a submission to the examination of the Western Australian government's paper - "Public Private Partnerships in Western Australia: Draft Principles and Guidelines".

Our most recent and very well attended breakfast was on November 19th with the title "Who's afraid of public debt". Economic issues with social implications are difficult for people to understand. Peter Costello said that the Australian government was contemplating abolishing government bonds linked to a Telstra sale. Dr Tony Aspromourgos of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Sydney and John R. Rappell from the Australian Financial Markets Association warned us of the dangers. Their contribution and that of the chair, Evatt Executive Committee member, Professor Frank Stilwell, will be on the website.

The state of the states

Our coverage of state issues continued with publication of The state of the states 2002, edited by Dr Sheil. The Tasmanian government took top position again this year. The ninth edition of The state of states was an analysis using figures from the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The fifteen statistical measures are grouped under three headings; economic, social and environment. We are hoping for a special issue of The state of the states to celebrate the 10th edition.

Art & culture

We were able to keep our traditional interest in art and culture with an appropriate joint venture with Bathurst Regional Gallery. On Easter Saturday this year I opened an exhibition at the Gallery called "The Mary Alice Evatt Exhibition". This exhibition was a celebration of Mary Alice Evatt's artistic and personal life so intrinsically linked with the political life of her husband, 'Doc' Evatt. The Executive Committee decided to award the Mary Alice Evatt Art Prize for 2002 to the Bathurst Gallery and the prize of $3000 was used to produce the catalogue. The exhibition was very successful, so successful in fact, it was sent on a tour of other regional galleries.

Assistance to youth

We were able also to continue our assistance to youth by helping two disadvantaged students from Albany State School, Western Australia, who were winners in the UN Youth Association Security Council Competition for the inaugural Dr Evatt Memorial Trophy, which will take place in December in Canberra.

Conclusion

We congratulate former Evatt Foundation President, Tom Uren, who has been made an honorary Doctor of Science in Architecture by Sydney University. Dr Tom Uren's contribution will be covered on our website. We are very proud of him.

I believe that we can look forward to an exciting year ahead for the Foundation. The Executive Committee believes that we should have a discussion at the Annual General Meeting about future initiatives including membership recruitment. As soon as the State election is over, we will continue with our fundraising, socials and issue based seminars.

Finally, Joanne Smith leaves the Evatt Executive Committee to work in the United Kingdom and we thank her and wish her well. I would also like to thank Jeannette McHugh and Fay Gervasoni and all the members of the Executive Committee for all their effort and team work.

Bruce Childs
President
Evatt Foundation
2 December 2002